Saturday, January 20, 2018

New Kirtland Preschool Guides Small Hands to Build Big Dreams
January 13, 2018 by Cassandra Shofar | No Comments

Owners grew up in Chesterland and graduated from West G

"When we first toured the facility, we immediately knew how we could transform it into the high quality preschool and childcare centers that we are known for.” – Brian Sprafka


When it comes to childcare and education, Small Hands Big Dreams learning centers are not only raising the bar, they are expanding their reach.

Owners Brian and Jennifer Sprafka, who currently have centers in Bainbridge, Mentor, Brunswick and Akron, recently opened a new daycare and preschool in Kirtland

“Having both grown up in Chesterland and graduated from West Geauga High School, we were very familiar with the Kirtland area,” said Brian via email. “Numerous family and friends that live in the area would ask us when we were opening a center closer to them, so it was definitely on our radar. When we first toured the facility, we immediately knew how we could transform it into the high quality preschool and childcare centers that we are known for.”

The couple opened their first childcare center in Akron in 2001.

“The parents’ enthusiastic reaction to our center allowed us to grow quickly,” Brian said. “We subsequently opened locations in Mentor, Bainbridge, Brunswick and are excited to open our fifth location in Kirtland. As the business grew, so too did our family with the addition of our kids, Corbin and Chloe. Since they were infants, both kids have experienced firsthand the amazing job the Small Hands Big Dreams teachers do on a daily basis. Along with preparing our children for kindergarten, the teachers’ dedication and passion for child development left a lasting impact and our children still consider those teachers ‘like family’ to this day.”

The couple put Director Vanesa Rogers at the helm of the Kirtland center, at 9823 Chillicothe Road.

“This is the first center I have opened as a director myself. The other centers were already established,” Rogers said. “I worked in Bainbridge for about three years. While we were getting ready to open the Kirtland location, I had the pleasure of helping our other locations, Mentor and Brunswick.”

Rogers, who grew up in Aurora and graduated from Cleveland State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, had always dreamed of running her own preschool center.

“I have worked in the industry since 2005,” said Rogers, a mother of three children ranging from 5 to 13 years old who now lives in Perry. “I figured if I got experience under my belt and had the business degree, that would be the best bet. In April of 2017, I decided to go back to school to complete my master’s in education and leadership organization. I completed my degree in March of 2018.”

The Kirtland center, which opened in November of last year, serves children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old.

“We offer quality curriculum called ‘collaborative curriculum’ designed by (the Sprafkas) and approved by Step Up to Quality, which is a star-rated quality and improvement program administered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services,” Rogers explained. “Small Hands Big Dreams focuses on the importance of education through play. We focus on meeting state standards while setting goals with the parents throughout the year. We are an all-inclusive center, providing hypoallergenic diapers, wipes, formula, breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. Our meals are nutritious and we have four-week cycle menus.”

Rogers said the staff writes activity plans for the children and work with the parents to establish goals.

“Each child in the center 6 weeks to 12 years (old) has a portfolio,” she said. “We utilize assessments and screenings to determine what we need to work on with each child. We align our activities with the state standards. With the school agers, the children are still discussing topics they may be interested in and learning about the topics, but are having fun doing it so they may not even realizing they are learning.”

When asked why the owners and Rogers picked Kirtland for its next center, Rogers said the city has such a tight knit community.

“There hasn’t been a quality center like ours and the community deserves that,” she said. “We enjoy being a part of communities and working with the school systems and small businesses.”

When asked what sets their learning center apart from others, Rogers said, they have “so much more to offer.”

“We have the quality education parents are looking for. We have modern technology such as emailed daily reports and live, secured video feed for parents, a security system for our buildings … sanitizing machines to cut the spread of germs and so much more,” she said, adding their secure live camera feeds are available for parents to log into to view their children throughout the day.

The Sprafkas said their favorite thing about the industry is getting to know the families and watching their children grow up.

“We love it when we run into Small Hands Big Dreams graduates and hear what they are up to and how much of an impact we made on their lives,” Brian said. “Although it feels like yesterday that we started our first center, in reality, we have teachers who were former preschool graduates many years ago.”

Rogers also highlighted Small Hands Big Dreams was recognized as the Northcoast 99’s top 99 places to work in Northeast Ohio in 2017.

“A pretty huge accomplishment that we are very proud of,” she said.

For Rogers personally, she has loved the “family-friendly atmosphere” of her current job.

“We offer monthly events and Small Hands becomes part of your family,” she said. “We don’t have that corporate feel. We are real people.”

At the Kirtland location, there are six highly qualified staff members, two who came from the Bainbridge location and four recently hired to the company, Rogers said.

“We are very excited to bring the quality care that Kirtland deserves,” she said. “We love to develop the young minds of children. We can’t wait to have the children plant in the community garden or take field trips to the Kirtland library.”

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